Sugar: a cautionary tale for parents.

Most of us have fancy ideas about children before we have them. Then we have them and discover, to our consternation, that none of those previously conceived notions on what constitutes good parenting applies. I’ll give you an example. Before I had Amanda, I swore I’d never give her sugar.

As any parent would know, the “no sugar rule” is the first to go out the window, especially when your child starts mixing with other children. A request for juice turns into a plea for cordial and before you even know where you put the phone number of the nearest dentist, your child has discovered the fizzy ten-teaspoons-of-sugar-delight that is coke.

It did not help that as a human-monkey, Amanda was inclined to fall asleep with a lump of food lodged in the side of her mouth. A trip to the dentist one year after her last visit at four years of age revealed that my child had nine, yes nine, cavities. Oh horror of horrors!

Anyhow, the dentist advised us to seek the services of a specialist paediatric dentist since the restoration of Amanda’s baby-teeth would require as many as three sessions without anaesthesia. Since we had private health cover, it could all be done in one go while she was under sedation.

As any parent would also know, most children have a terribly low tolerance of pain and Amanda was no different. His Royal Highness questioned the need to preserve baby-teeth, but both this dentist and the specialist paediatric dentist we consulted after, advised us on the role of teeth in clear speech. Think of all those poor old dears trying to enunciate their thoughts without teeth and you get the picture.

So we went ahead with the restoration of Amanda’s baby teeth at a cost of AUD4000. I’m happy to put the figure here, if only to convince parents of the need to monitor their children’s consumption of sugar and brushing of teeth. To add insult to injury, I paid another 20 something dollars after the procedure for the dentist to teach me, a grown adult, how to brush teeth properly. Add to that an extra 20 something for the blue tablet that was used to illuminate the calcified plaque.

Restorative paediatric dentistry.

Amanda's mouth after major restorative paediatric dentistry. Two porcelain crowns at the front, three silver crowns at the back.

Beauty: what works for me.

Now this may surprise some and astound others, but the last time I had a lactic acid peel was five years ago. May 2007 to be exact. Other than that, I’ve had no “work” done. I’ve been meaning to go again but haven’t quiet found the time to with all the juggling I’ve been doing; taking care of the home, my daughter, that third book I’m writing…

Anyhow, I believe in the maxim that less is more. That what you do to maintain your skin over a lifetime, counts more than the temporary results that can be achieved by a single visit to the doctor’s office. I’m not saying that being seen to by a professional has no merit. Just that ultimately it’s you who decides how good you look and how long you’ll stay looking the way you do.

My normal skincare regime involves cleansing once upon rising and cleansing twice, before bedtime. Before embracing Moogoo, which I am a huge fan of, I used Cethaphil. I’ve tried other “natural” brands but the essential oils in their products always sting my eyes. After cleansing, I apply hyaluronic acid to moisturise my under-eye area, followed by a brand of Australian-made el-cheapo eye-cream I get from Sunnybank, which for me works better than Clinique, Lancome, Chanel or Dior. Then if it is day, I apply Loreal’s SPF50, brought from Malaysia by my mother when she comes to visit, followed by eye-makeup. If it is night, I slather on a blob of Moogoo’s anti-aging cream with resveratrol, a potent antioxidant. Some nights I use Moogoo’s Vitamin C eye serum all over instead.

When it comes to make-up, I also have a very pared back approach. I use no foundation because I’ve never been able to find one that matches my skin tone. People rave about mineral make up and BB creams but I find both too heavy for my liking. The most I can tolerate is loose powder and the most I apply is a dab under my eyes and on my birthmark to set concealer. My current concealer of choice is Bobbi Brown’s Corrector in Light Peach. When my skin tone is lighter, I use Lancome’s Effacernes Concealer. Me sans special-lighting or photoshop.

I was fortunate enough to be born with visible eye-folds or what Asians refer to as double-eyelids so I’ve never encountered things like glue or eyelid tape. I’ve also only worn fake lashes twice in my life – once on my wedding day and another time for a friend’s promotional photo shoot –because I’ve never gotten the hang of putting them on. Perhaps, on the two occasions I’ve worn them, my eyelids have felt uncomfortably heavy.

Usually I just put on concealer, a dab of loose powder, followed by a smear of shadow and liner. To top it all off I apply mascara to my uncurled lashes. I’ve tried curling them and own no less than three of those scary-looking metal contraptions meant to give users wide-opened eyes, but have found scant success in the curling department. Heated eyelash curlers work, but I don’t like using the equivalent of a curling tong on my lashes everyday as all that abuse makes them fall out.

Look younger. Yes you can!

Before I jump ahead to what most of you would like to know, let me first say this: there are no ugly women or men, just lazy ones. The reason Japanese women look as well put together as they do is because they take immense pride in their appearance. As do the French, which is why they can stop themselves from over-indulging in wine or cheese. So cultivate vanity, dear readers. That is a pre-requisite if we are to get anywhere with this exercise of trying to look younger.

What follows is a non-negotiable, must-do list to stave off the long arm of aging:

1)  Quit smoking

If you have never smoked, good on you, if you are still puffing, that was your last cigarette. Other than yellow teeth and nicotine-stained fingers, smoking makes you smell like a walking ashtray. That’s before considering lung cancer, emphysema and the lost of limbs from poor circulation. In the long run, you will have smoker’s lines around the mouth from pursing your lips repeatedly and skin more leathery than a crocodile. Think about it: is this really what you want?

2)  Get out of the sun

Coco may have had the sense to spawn a fashion empire but she sure didn’t have the sense to spare her skin damage by baking in the sun. A tan, while wonderful against white clothes, is a sign of skin damage. Yes, you’ll look marvellously edible with caramel skin, but if you are naturally fair, you’ll only stay that way two months tops. What you’ll be left with is a built-up lifetime of sun damage.

Some people don’t even tan. They just burn and a crust forms from their poor dried out skin. Some get new moles. Some of these moles turn cancerous. If you must be brown and golden like one of them gingerbread boys, make sure your tan comes from a tube.

3)  Wear Sunscreen

This seems like commonsense, but many people only wear sunscreen when they are going to the beach or when it is thirty-degrees outside. You have to wear sunscreen everyday, 365 days a year, from when you wake up in the morning until you wash your face at night, rain, hail, or shine. There is no excuse. Believe me, the money you spend on sunscreen will be the best ever investment you make for your skin. Forget about all those anti-oxidant, acid and laser treatments. If you don’t wear sunscreen each and every single day, you won’t see the benefits of any of them.

4)  Eat a healthy diet

Excessive or prolonged regular consumption of sugar triggers a process called Glycation, causing skin to become thicker and loose it’s elasticity. This, my friends, is what accounts for wrinkles and sagging skin, other than unavoidable intrinsic ageing. So eat your fruit and veg. Cut down on simple carbohydrates like bread, rice and pasta and consume enough protein for your height, weight and sex. Aside from making good food taste horrible, low fat diets are bad for the skin.

5) Supplement

Even those who eat everything under the sun have gaps in their diet. A lack of one vitamin, mineral or trace element can make itself felt in a myriad of ways. A lack of healthy fats for instance, may manifest itself as dry skin or dandruff. If your budget hampers you from splurging on supplements, at least get these two: good multivitamin and fish oil. While the former can’t replace a good diet, it insures you against insufficient nutrients. Fish oil lubricates the skin from within, giving it that nice tone and overall glow.

5)  Sleep

The Chinese have a saying that men need a full stomach and women need their sleep. Looking back at all the pictures I’d taken right after the birth of my child, when I was as sleep-deprived as any new mother can be, I’d have to agree. Sleep is the cheapest and most effective beauty treatment. Be sure to be in bed between ten pm and midnight, for the curative and regenerative effects of sleep to be felt, as that’s when the magic takes place. Any later and you might as well not have slept at all. I take that back. Any sleep is better than none.

6)  Drink plenty of water

Imagine you’re a camel in a desert. Now what do camels think of when they’re surrounded by nothing but sand? That’s right. Water. I drink up to three litres a day to flush out toxins and keep my skin clear. If I fall sick, I might drink more. It’s a Chinese cure-all for fever and sore throats, coughs and colds…

7)  Exercise

Aside from keeping you enviably trim, exercise will give you a nice, healthy, glow. Well, you aren’t going to look like you’re lit from within, incandescent with life, by sitting on the couch. I’m not advocating triathlons either; exposure to the elements from all that prolonged outdoor activity simply ages your skin. Just do as much incidental exercise as you possibly can in a day. Instead of riding the escalator or lift, take the stairs. Get off the bus one or two stops before your destination. Ditch the car every so often and walk.

8)  Eliminate stress

Take up yoga, meditation, or simply hit the local park in your joggers. It doesn’t matter how you do it, but you must because all the worries of the world get written on your face in the form of sagging and lines. Cultivate an oasis of calm wherever you go by taking deep breaths throughout the day, sipping green tea and just resting your eyes on the available green around you. If, like me, you are indoors for most of the day, it would be good to go for a stroll during your lunch time to get the stress out of your system.